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Susceptibility to arsenic toxicity influenced by genes

(27.06.2005)


A group of researchers from Mexico and the US (Arizona) have pointed out to a gene called CYT19 in people, particularly in children, that may be responsible for varied reactions to arsenic. The results of their research indicate that individual genetic inheritance defines how much the arsenic taken by the body will cause harm to the health.
 
In the association screening performed by the researchers for a Mexican population, three polymorphic sites in the CYT19 gene were significantly associated with methylation pathways for arsenic excretion in children. Although the finding of a genetically and developmentally restricted association with arsenic metabolism was unexpected, the presence of a developmentally restricted component in the metabolism of arsenic has been reported also by other researchers (Chowdhury et al. 2003; Kurttio et al. 1998).
 
The research also showed that children with a mutation of the gene variety CYT19 react to arsenic in a different manner than the adults, namely by enhanced occurence of the dimethylated species (DMA). If, as has been well characterized in the arsenic toxicology literature, arsenic metabolism can govern the creation and removal of extremely toxic arsenic species, then these findings may suggest that a particular subset of exposed children may have increased susceptibility to arsenic toxicity by virtue of metabolism that is skewed toward enhanced accumulation of toxic species.
 
The authors conclude, that because the drinking water concentrations of arsenic in their study represent a range that includes a large number of children throughout the world, including North America as well as Central and South America, the public health and regulatory implications of this study are significant.
 
Michael Sperling
 
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